In an up-close and personal interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Kobe Bryant spoke about his draft workouts and why the Los Angeles Clippers decided not to draft him. Here’s the clip:
That sound you just heard was an audible gasp from every Clippers fan in the world. We know what Kobe Bryant soon turned into: 5 NBA championships, 2 NBA Finals MVPS, one league MVP, 4 All-Star MVPs and several All-NBA and All-Defensive placements.
Instead of drafting Kobe with the seventh overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Clippers drafted the late big man Lorenzen Wright. Bryant was then six picks later at 13 by the Charlotte Hornets and was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers straight-up for Vlade Divac. The rest is history.
The Clippers went on to win a total of 36 games during the 1996-97 season and didn’t produce a winning season until 2005-06 when Mike Dunleavy led the club to the second round of the playoffs. That’s almost ten years without winning, not including the seasons prior to the 1996 Draft.
Even knowing how talented Bryant is at this stage of his career, there’s no concrete evidence that says Bryant would have turned the Clippers into a formidable franchise, but they would have been far away from the team that won nine games in a season. Joining a team that recently signed marquee star Shaquille O’Neal and was later coached by the legendary Phil Jackson helped a lot.
Yet it doesn’t hurt to think. That’s twice the Clippers were close to becoming a Clipper, with the second time during Kobe’s threat to leave to Lakers. Oh well. Maybe next time Donald Sterling and company will make the right pick.